Inverse Cool Theory Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

Inverse Cool Theory

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You may not have encountered the Inverse Cool Theory before. You may in fact be living proof of this theory and not even know it. It is a fundamental flaw in the concept of cool which none of us understand and most of us strive for.

Being 'Cool'

Before we can understand inverse cool theory we must first understand the concept of cool in its natural and generally accepted form.

Once a word that determined temperature, cool has come to stand for much more than something that's not warm. Cool has become a concept that mixes fashion sense with popularity and attitude with appearance, and generally is not understood by anyone.

When looking for a figure synonymous with the concept of cool many of us look to Happy Days1 character 'The Fonz'2, or James Dean 3. It is generally accepted among sociologists that youth subcultures began in the 1950s with 'Teddy Boys'4, and as a result the concept of cool duly followed.

There are some very strange unspoken rules determining what is cool and what isn't:

  • Trying to be cool is very uncool.
  • However, not caring about cool doesn't necessarily make you cool.
  • You can look cool, without actually being cool.
  • You can be cool, without looking cool.
  • The definition of what is cool can be vary dramatically in different genres and cultures.
  • Cool is not only subjective, but relative, and only ever applies to that exact moment.

There are many more confusing factors that dig even deeper into the core of what cool actually is.

Generally Accepted Principles

Although 'cool' can mean many things to many people there are generally accepted norms and values which, while ever shifting, sum up the cool of the moment. These are conveyed to us, the unsuspecting public, through the mass media.

This may have at times been being a hippy, a punk, a mod, a new romantic, an indie kid, a raver, or one of many other factions and subcultures.

That is So Uncool, Man!

As Newton states in his Third Law of Motion5:

For every action there is a reaction of equal strength but opposite direction.

And thus, with only minor paraphrasing, we can conclude that for every aspect of cool there is an opposite and equal version of uncool.

There are two groups that are generally considered uncool by pretty much anyone anywhere with any real sense of what cool truly is: the old, and geeks. There is no specific age at which an individual becomes old, but in terms of cool it's safe to say that everyone else will know long before you do. If you are unsure ask a brutally honest friend or, if you don't have one of those, an unsuspecting teenager. Doing this, however, will render you uncool, so if you're actually considering this just consider yourself uncool, give up trying and go and buy some slippers.

Much in the way that it's impossible to accurately pin down what cool is, it's difficult to define 'geek' in any certain terms. In general, most people would consider it a derogatory remark to describe those with limited social skills, a little too much interest in 'work', and a susceptibility to wearing sandals with socks. It is perfectly plausible, and indeed common, to fall into both of these uncool groups.

The Actual Theory Then

Armed with your new found understanding of the background information regarding cool and not cool you are ready to wrap your mind around the concept of 'inverse cool'.

Put quite simply, this is the theory that among the 'uncool,' the things that are considered most uncool by the cool are actually considered cool.

True, the previous sentence may not be the most simple way of expressing this concept. Bearing this in mind, it's probably best to explain this theory with an example:

While being into fantasy gaming is extremely uncool to the reasonable and normally aligned being, to a geek this is pretty cool. You will probably have something in common with other geeks, and may be able to elevate yourself to a particularly high status within a grouping of geeks if you know a lot about fantasy gaming, and can beat other geeks in this particularly geeky sport.

This allows the least cool people to become the most cool, simply by finding people who are slightly less uncool - or cool - than them.

So For Each of us There is Hope

This simple theory now makes it possible for pretty much anyone to be considered cool within their social group of choice, you simply have to choose the right group. If you're really into knitting find yourself a bunch of knitting fans and show off your knowledge, expertise and style in the field of knitting. If you're really into sci-fi novels, learn your stuff about sci-fi novels and find yourself a bunch of similarly-minded individuals to show your sci-fi cool to.

Even if - shock horror - you are old you can be cool, as long as you choose the right group of people who will think you're cool. You would be wise to avoid trendy twenty-somethings, and hoodie-wearing teenagers, as they're likely to think you're just about the least cool person they know. Try fitting in with a group of similar ages and interests.

Go now and show them - the selected group remember - your newfound cool. Do what you do with style and panache, know your target audience, and go and find that social status you've been longing for.

Huzzah for the cool! And that is just about the least cool way to end an article.

1An American sitcom starring Ron Howard2Played by Henry Winkler (and how!).3Legendary American actor whose image in the film Rebel Without a Cause has become iconic.4A youth subculture dominated by young males who dressed in sharp suits with drainpipe trousers and often organised themselves into gangs.5See Newton's Laws.

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